If you want to do something dramatically beneficial for your health, eat less sugar. Sugar is harmful to our health in so many ways. It decays our teeth. It leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Cancer cells love sugar, which makes them multiply. Even heart disease is linked to sugar consumption. Not too mention the way sugar makes you feel when you’ve eaten too much of it.
Many regard sugar as a poison. Others see it as a drug, with its highly addictive qualities. Whatever sugar means to you, chances are, you’re eating too much of it because it’s lurking everywhere. And, if you’re an American, you’re probably consuming somewhere around the average of 68 grams of sugar per day. This translates to 17 teaspoons of sugar. Experts encourage us to eat no more than 25 grams per day for women and 37 grams per day for men. In other words, no more than 6 teaspoons for gals and 9 teaspoons for guys.
While you may not be ladling spoonfuls of white sugar into your coffee, tea, or morning cereal, you’re getting that sugar in other sneaky places. Let’s figure out what you can do to eat less sugar — your health depends on it.
1. Read your labels
All those sauces you love — red pasta sauce, sweet and spicy Thai chili sauce, downhome barbecue sauce, steak sauce, and ketchup — all contain lots of sugar. In fact, you might be getting most of the daily recommended amount of sugar in just one plate of pasta or brisket. It’s so sneaky the way nearly any sauce you find in a jar contains sugar. You may think you’re cutting sugar from your diet by not eating sweets, when really you’re eating just as much as every other American simply by default. The message here is to check labels. You can find sugar-free versions of your favorite sauces. Or, you can make your own.
You might also want to try adding healthier flavors to your foods. Sea salt and ground black pepper are great. Herbs like fresh rosemary, basil, and thyme are nutritious. Fresh chili peppers spice things up. There’s a wide world of mustards out there, which contain little or no calories and zero sugar. A variety of vinegars help add flavor to many foods, as does pesto sauce, and even mayonnaise. You can find healthy versions of mayonnaise made with coconut oil. Or you can get really clever in the kitchen and make your own from scratch!
2. Pay attention to processed and refined foods
This is another sneaky place where sugar comes into play. You probably don’t think you’re eating sugar while enjoying your favorite crackers or breads. But, they’re there. Just about any and every processed or refined food has more sugar in it than your body really wants or needs.
Even “healthy” processed foods aren’t always so healthy because sugar is always added. You might think you’re being healthy by enjoying granola you’ve found in the bulk section of your local health food store. But, read the ingredient list. Sugar is typically at the top. Even many protein bars contain more sugar than your body needs. If the food you’re eating is a man-made creation, rather than one from Mother Nature, chances are sugar is lurking inside.
3. Enjoy a whole foods diet
Whole foods are those that naturally occur in nature. They don’t have additives or anything artificial added to them to make them taste better or last longer. They’re fruits, nuts, seeds, plants, etc. Fruit contains sugar but the sugar it has is so much better for you than the sugar artificially added to foods.
Enjoying a whole-foods diet will dramatically cut your sugar intake because you’ll be eating more of the good stuff and less of the fake stuff. A 2016 study states that 90% of all added sugars Americans eat come from processed and refined foods. It makes sense to switch to a whole foods diet, or simply begin adding more whole foods into your diet bit by bit, while gradually eliminating processed foods.
4. Enjoy healthy fats
For years we’ve been told to eat fat-free and low-fat foods in order to lose weight. But the truth is, these foods have more sugar added to them when compared to their full-fat counterparts.
Foods that have naturally occurring fat removed are a man-made creation. They’ve been tampered with. They’ve been injected with additives like artificial preservatives and added sugars. That fruity low-fat yogurt you love so much is brimming with sugar. You’ll be amazed how many grams of sugar are lurking in these so-called health foods. If you love yogurt, opt for the full-fat version and add a natural sweetener. Plain yogurt with raw honey is a match made in foodie heaven.
5. Get familiar with healthy sweeteners
Raw honey, molasses, pure maple syrup, liquid or powdered stevia — these are all sweeteners you’ll want to become familiar with if you have a sweet tooth. Raw honey has so many wonderful health benefits. Pure maple syrup isn’t far behind. Imagine eating baked dates stuffed with almonds and drizzled with raw honey for dessert. Or a medley of your favorite nuts and seeds baked with pure maple syrup. A cozy bowl of steel-cut oats with berries, almond milk, and stevia powder is every bit as delicious as that stack of store-bought frozen waffles drenched in fake maple syrup. Adding healthy sweeteners to whole foods is the best way to satisfy your sweet tooth while not giving up special treats and dessert-filled pleasures.
6. Cut out sugary beverages
One of the most effective ways to eat less sugar is to stop drinking it! We typically think drinking juice is a healthy thing. But, fruit juice is filled with sugar. Eating an apple is one thing. Drinking apple juice is another. So many people add sugary shots of flavor to their water, thinking they’re a healthy way to drink more water.
So many of us go the gym with our energy drinks or bottles of Gatorade. But, pouring sugar-filled liquids into our bodies doesn’t complement the healthy working out we’ve just accomplished. Every time you drink something, check the label. Be a sugar super-sleuth. Don’t drink it if added sugars lurk beneath what appears to be an innocent beverage.
7. Spruce up your water
Now that sugar water’s not your thing, how about giving your water the spa treatment? There are many fun, creative, and sugar-free ways to do this. Think cucumber infusions, fresh herbs like mint, slices of lemon, lime, or even grapefruit. Nowadays, you can even buy water bottles that come with infusers for fruit, herbs, and vegetables. Have fun and get creative. Giving your water a spa treatment will help make those sugary beverages a thing of the past.
8. Learn to enjoy tea
If you want to eat less sugar, drink more tea. Teas are some of the healthiest beverages on earth. An added bonus of tea-drinking is that it supports weight-loss. Several studies show just how important it is to cut back on sugary drinks if you want to lose weight and keep it off. Drinking green tea, black tea, white tea, and herbal tea — without adding sugar to it, is one of the healthiest and most effective ways to do this.
9. Keep junk food out of your home
If it’s there, you’ll eat it, right? One of the most effective ways to eat less sugar is to simply not buy it! Don’t get distracted by those candy bars lining the shelves at checkout. They’re there to entice you while you wait in line. Don’t fall for those marketing stunts. If the cakes, cookies, and candies are in your pantry, you’ll be tempted to eat them. When you’re craving sweets and they’re not around, eventually those cravings will pass. So, don’t let the junk food enter the hallowed halls of your home and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you!
10. Prepare baked goods from scratch
It’s far too easy to eat sugar when cakes, muffins, pies, cookies, and candies are so readily available. Plus, store-bought baked goods are loaded with white sugar, whereas you can choose healthier options for the treats you make at home. There are ways to make baked treats healthy. And there are natural sweeteners that don’t poison your body like refined sugars do. Baking with alternative flours and sweeteners spark creativity and inspire healthy habits. So put on your apron and find some recipes online that utilize healthy alternatives to sugar. Honey, maple syrup, stevia, and molasses are all fun and healthy sweeteners to add to your new and improved baked treats.
11. Learn to love fruit
Fruit is a whole food, and contains natural sugars. It’s got all the good stuff — vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. This is the kind of sugar your sweet tooth can learn to get used to with time. And before long, you’ll stop craving the bad stuff. Eventually, you can learn to love fruit for dessert — as an addition to yogurt or nuts, or as a stand-alone course. A banana drizzled with honey and topped with your favorite nuts is far better than any dessert you’d get at the grocery store or restaurant. Baked apples or pears with honey and cinnamon is yet another creative way to eat fruit for dessert. Dates are a wonderful dried fruit that become hearty desserts once stuffed with almonds, baked, and drizzled with honey. Then there’s dark chocolate, which has far less sugar than its milk chocolate counterpart. The higher the cacao content, the lower the sugar content. Enjoy 75% dark chocolate or higher for a low-sugar treat.
12. Check your canned goods
Just like those table sauces, canned goods often have added sugars. It seems strange that a can of tomatoes, beans, fruits, or vegetables would have sugar added to them. But the canned foods found in supermarkets need a long shelf life, which means added preservatives. While not all canned goods contain sugar, canned fruits always do. So be sleuthy with canned goods and read those labels! There’s no need to buy a can of vegetables with sugar added when there’s a sugar-free option on the shelf right next to it — or better yet, fresh vegetables from the produce section.
13. Skip the breakfast cereals
Ever read those breakfast cereal labels? Most breakfast cereals — even those that claim to be healthier options — are loaded with sugar. The last thing you need is a heaping dose of sugar first thing in the morning. What a silly way to start off the day! And yet, breakfast cereals are enormously popular. What with all the marketing involved it’s no wonder we think they’re good for us. But, take a look at the ingredients of your favorite cereal and you’ll be unpleasantly surprised. Far more than the daily recommended amount of sugar is taken up in one fell swoop when you pour yourself a bowl of cereal in the the morning.
Instead, enjoy a cozy bowl of warm oatmeal with fruit or a few scrambled or hard-boiled eggs. An omelet with avocado is perfect for the weekends. Full-fat Greek yogurt with nuts, fruit, and a drizzle of honey is another good option. Fruit smoothies with organic blueberries, nut milk, nut butter, Greek yogurt, stevia, and your favorite superfood powder are yet another healthy breakfast alternative. Rotate among these breakfasts and you’ll forget you ever wanted all that sugar in the first place!
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom-tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight-loss difficult. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!